Next is an aluminum soda can bottom that has been polished to a high sheen using a piece of the same fine grade of steel wool. I cut the bottom off with a knife or scissors and de-burred and taped for use as a parabolic reflector to ignite a piece of char cloth with the sun and dull and dulled. The steel wool can be used to polish many more additional reflectors, but the one included provides an example of how it should look in order to make fire as well as one working reflector to be used if not enough time is given for polishing during the demonstration. I usually just show the polishing technique on one can and give each of the group a thumb sized piece of steel wool to take with them to use at home. If the sun is out clearly, I demonstrate how to focus and get an ember using the pre-polished can bottom.
The blue and red straws contain Potassium Permanganate and Glycerin. I use the straws to show an easy way to pack and carry these ingredients. The two will quickly make flames when combined, so the two should also be separated so that they can’t possibly combine accidentally when carried. Sometimes I use a small Carmex lip balm jar for the Permanganate and a small squeeze bottle or eyedropper bottle for the Glycerine.Several fires can be started with this small amount of ingredients.
Char Cloth or other easily ignitable tinder is necessary to make fire using flint and steel and it greatly facilitates solar fire starting using the soda can bottom. I use those vintage metal shoe polish cans as pictured when I have them, but other small cans work well, too, both to make Char Cloth and to carry it for use once prepared. Altoid tins are often referenced for this purpose. For me, they tend to allow too much air into the can while preparing the char cloth, but many years ago, I used Sucrets tins, which can still be had. Seems like they were bigger and tighter. Metal pellet tins are good, too. Anyway, a small can of prepared char cloth is enough to make a bunch of fires.
Note: I have been experimenting with Stone Tinder, which I will be reviewing fully in a post in the near future. It is a proprietary formula commercially prepared primarily for use in fire-pistons, but it can be used for these methods, too. The stuff is amazing, and a small amount will start many fires. It can be found on eBay.
Jute twine is also a big help in quickly turning an ember into flames during a demonstration, so I include a length of that. A three or four inch piece of twine unwound and fluffed is perfect. Kids sometimes don’t believe you have fire until they see flames. Jute twine quickly makes flamboyant flames and then burns out. I keep a refuse jar or can nearby to toss the flaming stuff into while demonstrating.
You will find the remaining details of my Instructors Fire Kit within the next post.